For the homeless of Gush Katif, wandering the streets of Jerusalem brought back our own plight. Five weeks ago we were the owners of beautiful homes on large plots of grass and flower gardens. We were not wealthy but simply were dignified owners of a place called home
Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dkalim/NitzanBefore her community´s expulsion from Gush Katif, Rachel Saperstein was a teacher at the N´vei Dekalim ulpana and a spokeswoman for the Katif Regional Council.
Expelled Gush Katif residents recently were taken on a tour of Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe neighborhood one evening. We walked through the cobble-stoned streets and listened to the tales of this charming area, home to artists and many wealthy people, some of whom use their beautiful homes as their Israeli retreat.
We peered through un-curtained windows and watched families eating at kitchen tables or gathering near a television set, the comfortable simplicity of what people do in their homes and which for us is only a memory.
Esther Bazak owned an enormous house on the main street of N'vei Dekalim. She entertained her numerous children and grandchildren in her home, which she always offered to families celebrating a "Shabbat simcha" and needing to put up relatives and friends.
Holding a picture of her home she asked a Jerusalem framer for a free-standing frame. "I haven't got one" he said, "but I'll put it in a frame to hang on your wall."
Esther took a deep breath and quietly said, "I don't have a wall."
Home today is a small hotel room. A tiny refrigerator and an electric kettle are our home appliances. My son just hooked up our computer to a mobile phone so we can receive and send e-mails. A plastic container with six shelves is my storage space. A few favorite books, toiletries, crackers, tea and coffee are parceled out into the opaque drawers, all organized by my granddaughter.
There is a picture on the wall, a seascape in dark blue of an angry sea smashing against the rocks. A friend brings me small gifts, always in orange, like the huge rose made of orange cloth and which leans against the tieback of the green curtain.
There are stains on the worn rug. A television stands unused on a sideboard. Since our expulsion, we haven't watched the news, read a newspaper or listened to a radio. We have had to retreat into ourselves to protect our sanity. We don't let the outside world into our cramped hotel room.
We eat our meals in the hotel dining room, but sometimes we take food to the room for a quiet meal. Breakfast, after the schoolchildren are gone, is quiet, and lunch and dinner are noisy as dozens of youngsters eat with their families. The chefs make an effort, and food is plentiful and tasty. A friend and former Jerusalem neighbor brought Chinese food and we ate from trays and re-told funny stories, a respite from our daily routine.
We share a laugh with our hotel families as we remember how we thought going to a hotel for a weekend was a luxury. Today, we dream of living in a home, even for a weekend. One woman, Pazit, borrowed her sister's home, bought all the food and cooked up a Shabbat meal for her family, homesick for Mom's cooking.
A woman called offering money for my Operation Band-Aid fund on condition that the money be used for children. That was acceptable, but she demanded that I supply her with each child's photograph, name, and a detailed description of what was bought. I turned her down. We are not welfare cases whose actions are to be scrutinized. We are human beings, religious and educated people who were forced out of our homes and jobs. We have yet to receive compensation from the government and we are still forced to pay the mortgages on the rubble that was once our homes.
Today we are dependent on the kindness of others, but our personal lives must never become public property. Someday, hopefully soon, we will return to being just like you and live in a home and buy our children gifts with our own money.
Shanah Tova, a happy New Year to all our friends and supporters. May the Land of Israel and the Nation of Israel see a beautiful year.
Operation Band-Aid gives immediate help to the people of Gush Katif. A discreet envelope with 500 shekels is given to each family to use as they wish. Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the attention of Jay Marcus with the notation they are earmarked for Operation Band Aid:
Central Fund for Israel
Rehov Hagoel 13
Efrat 90435 Israel